How to Take the Train: a Definitive Guide to British Rail Passage

*Whispers* I’m on a train.

It’s not a secret or anything; I’m not under-cover, or afraid to be caught by … catchy-people (go with it). No, it’s just that, um, I’m British? I don’t know if you’ve ever heard about british trains, but let me sum things up for you: EVERY carriage is the quiet carriage. Those who talk are silently judged by literally everyone around them, so I dare not speak too loudly. Of course, I’m writing this post, not speaking it, and so the entire concept of speech volume is fairly redundant, but it made for a good opening and this is my post so there.

Sitting on a train — as I am, no lie –, I thought about how many things there are related to train travel, specifically in Britain, that are just so uncovered by bloggers, journalists or writers. So, as usual, Kel is here to make things right: read on to hear about EVERY TRAIN JOURNEY.


1. Passenger Analysis

Missing your train due to lateness is not a good way to start your trip; frankly, it is the perfect way to bring it to an end almost instantly. So, if you’re anything like me, you undoubtedly turn up to the station at least 20 (200) minutes (hours) early, just in case. Upon deciding on a pre-trip beverage — an adventure in itself –, you muster up the courage to approach the merchant and ask, in a timid-yet-authoritative voice, whether or not they accept contactless.

TOP Tip 1: They invariably do. Don’t bother asking.

You move to the platform, and take a seat on a cold, wet metal bench. It’s disgusting and unpleasant, but you wish beyond anything else to avoid the awkwardness of standing; Brits are quick to assume that any rogue-standers are dodgy, ticketless, or shifty. (Shhh, we are.) From your seat, you observe those around you, also awaiting the dirty-carriages of british railway travel. You assess your new travel companions: it’s a must-do for all travelling individuals, particularly if you choose to venture out alone.

There’s always the quiet one, sat in seemingly-deep thought; the professional one, who hides their tear-stained face behind a copy of the Financial Times; the sociable one, wandering around and making conversation with their ‘new friends’, offering sweeties and cheer. I suggest you go for an angry look: glare at some of your fellow passengers, and look fierce; this stops you becoming a shoulder-to-cry-on for the one who has just gone through a break-up (there’s always one).

2. Aboard the train.

TOP TIP 2: Choose your seat carefully; you have to stick with it for a while.

Aboard the train, you have some important decisions to make.

First, to go quiet, or to go quiet-free. Think this through carefully: quiet-free is freeing; there are no noise restrictions, which is good for tippy-tappy typists (more about them later), but not so good if, like me, you find the screeching of small children incredibly annoying, or if it makes you want to scream loudly, uncannily like said child, at the top of your lungs until they JUST SHUT UP. Quiet coaches, on the other hand, are always packed with people who may as well create badges and adopt the title ‘The Noise Police’. If you breathe too loudly (which, in their eyes and ears is essentially the same as ‘if you breathe’), you are given The Look.

You don’t want to receive The Look.

Wherever you choose to set up camp, you must make the choice between a table seat and a non-table seat. Table seats used to be my all-time favourite: when I was little, and snobby commuters wouldn’t give up their seats for me, I’d sit on my mum’s feet for our extended journeys; table seats provided the most room for baby Kel. As I grew older and taller, table seats provided more room for my sleepy head to have a nap on, and also brought with them the luxury of a plug socket — British rail travel at its finest! However, there is the issue around — and this is my own name for them — Table Thieves. Table Thieves are those people who see you, sat at a four-seater table and decide you look far too socially comfortable. They lay their eyes on every empty seat in the carriage — every empty table, even –, and decide to sit themselves oposite you. They then proceed to look at you with almost frightening intensity for the duration of your trip.

Choose wisely, my friends. Choose wisely.

3. Tippy-Tappy Typists.

I always see train journeys as an opportunity to get some focussed work done. Because this is England, phone signal is minimal on the railways, meaning no distracting notifications. However, hard as I try (which isn’t very hard TBH), I never actually get work done on a train. Instead, I take a nap, read back through old text message conversations, or wonder what my new-found train friends think of me right now. (I always go for the cool-but-aloof solo traveller persona, FYI.)

My question, therefore, is related to those tippy-tappy typists — you know the ones I mean. They spread themselves throughout the train, making sure to infect every carriage with their tipping-tapping, to infuriate all other passengers. WHAT ARE THEY ACTUALLY DOING? They aren’t working: no one works on a train, it’s just impossible. Are they, like me, scrolling through Twitter, with the deceptive copy of The guardian propped up in front of them? Are they actually playing Hangman? We’ll never know… but they are NOT working. I promise you.

4. Wait…

You may have packed a bag for your journey: if you have, I commend you.

TOP TIP 3: Always bring a bag. That way, you can always revert to litter-picking if your new friends are really that dull.

Maybe you’ve brought some snacks, a book or a drink (water, I hope). You’re set for your hour-long trip to … wherever you’re going, i’m not a stalker. What you have undoubtedly forgotten to factor in to your pre-trip preparations is that, again, this is England. (Can’t you see the rain?)

In England, it is typical, nay traditional, for trains to be late. Very, very late. An hour journey is never a minute short of 2 hours, and it’s always because a wanderlust sheep has got big ideas, and wandered onto the track — for thrills, I suppose. Always bring extra snacks, drinks and entertainment: you will need it, I swear.

And you don’t want to have to buy provisions aboard the train, not unless you value the contents of your bank account. HOW MUCH FOR A BOTTLE OF WATER???

There you have it: my guide to every train journey.


I hope you enjoyed this post, and that you now feel fully prepared for your next rail adventure. If you don’t, don’t come asking me questions: I’ll be sat on my table in the quiet coach, glaring at you fiercely with a bag full of rubbish and a half-drunk vanilla latte… payed for with contactless.

Kel XX

2 thoughts on “How to Take the Train: a Definitive Guide to British Rail Passage

  1. This post is amazing. Thank you for that humor in my dark days of secondary school. (Just so you know, what you are describing is very similar to the subway system of New York City).

    Liked by 1 person

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